Integrating course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs) in advanced forensic science curriculum as an active learning strategy
In an effort to improve student learning outcomes and retention in advanced forensic science curricula, a research-based curriculum has been developed at the university. During the first six weeks of the semester, students are introduced to fundamental research techniques in a forensic biochemistry course. These include presumptive tests, DNA extraction, DNA quantitation, short tandem repeat-based polymerase chain reactions and capillary electrophoresis. Using this fundamental knowledge, students develop a research problem/hypothesis, identify suitable protocols using a literature survey, plan and collect samples, determine variables, analyze data and present their results as a formal laboratory report as well as an oral presentation. Students specifically develop “real world” based forensic experiments in the collection, storage and extraction of DNA for forensic DNA analysis. Data from student assessment of learning gains (SALG) surveys administered at the end of the semester supported gains in student learning. Additionally, pre- versus post survey data showed that students gained confidence in organizing and presenting their data as well as a deeper understanding of the applications of biochemistry in forensic science. We conclude that incorporating CURE research projects in other forensic science courses will help provide students with opportunities to be innovative and learn important critical thinking skills for their future careers.